MAKE Asks: First Arduino Projects

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MAKE Asks: First Arduino Projects

Make: Asks is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

Once I learned the basics of Arduino, my first project was a system of tracks that held ping pong balls. At the end of the tracks were solenoids that popped out the ping pong balls in sequence, making music.

This week’s question: What was your first Arduino project that went beyond the basics, and was something that could be called creative?

Post your responses in the comments section.

50 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: First Arduino Projects

  1. rocketguy1701 says:

    I made an EMF sensor (early make project I think). A coworker was apparently having problems with EMF and so I built him a detector and fit it into a trader joes chocolate tin (led display under the round window, it turned out well) as a retirement present.

  2. Will Lyon says:

    I made a system that moved a servo based on readings from a temp sensor. The servo in turn was used ot move vents ont eh top of my ocmputer case mod. It gained a lot of attention (Hack-a-Day, Gizmodo, Endgadget, etc)


  3. Tod E. Kurt (@todbot) says:

    My first real Arduino project was a MIDI drum kit with drumpads made from piezo buzzer innards as sensors taped to circular brass sheet glued to old mousepads. It worked pretty well and took basically an afternoon.

  4. Mark says:

    Excluding the blinking led, I used it for my final college project, a robot arm. Made out of meccano (errector) and got me a distinction :)

  5. Mark Wilson says:

    My first real project was an emulation of a 1970’s buttons-and-lights computer, the KENBAK-1.

  6. J.P. says:

    Every time I see an article on first-time projects for Arduino, I’m reminded of an article at Hack-a-day that showed how the community could kill the platform with over-zealousness. A good write-up, and a reminder on giving back to the community through mentoring:

    1. J.H. says:

      There is no need to push people to use something other than an Arduino. It’s a great tool for lots of jobs. Sometimes a uC is overkill, sometimes the Arduino is underpowered. However, there are people who come to Arduino without an EE or CS background. And for someone who is making something and being delighted about it, the Arduino is a big win.

      My first Arduino project was a DSLR intervalometer for astrophotography. My latest project is an XBee-enabled bathroom scale that sends its readings to a computer; it can tell who’s standing on the scale, and stores each user’s data in a separate file.

  7. Calisto says:

    My first “real” project was a plastic model of Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet. The model was meant to be static but I used an ardweeny to add lights and sound plus spinning head gear. Each feature was controlled by the two reels on his chest I used to disguise a pair of buttons. I used programming to have the two buttons combine to control 6 different functions. i.e. button A, button B, A+B, B+A, AB and A+A. The combinations have to be completed within 3 seconds to register but it works if you are patient.

  8. Frank says:

    RGB LED display integrated into a beer pong table with a microphone for sound response. Turned out great.

  9. Seamus says:

    The first real ‘project’ I did that utilized Arduino and wasn’t intended to be dismantled once the learning experiment was over was (and still is) an automatic watering controller for my time-lapse plant stand. By adding a small amount of water when soil conductivity falls below a settable threshold, it keeps soil moisture more-or-less constant, and avoids periodic wilting and recovery in the footage that I shoot.

  10. Josh B says:

    I’ve not actually done an Arduino or other microcontroller project yet so I’m sorta answering the wrong question here but whatever ;-) I’ve been interested in learning the platform for quite a while now but it’s taken me a while to find a good starter project that was both simple enough to learn on and functional enough to be useful and interesting. I’m weird that way.

    Anyway I’m excited now because I found the lumeninch lamp at Make:Projects recently looks fun and within my skill level to build and hack. In a few months I hope to be able to answer this question properly, but for now I’m just happy to have a pile of parts waiting for me to work with :-D

  11. Chief Robot says:

    Using an old cigar box, an LCD screeen and some LEDs I made a fortune teller. Press the button and you got a fortune and a lucky number.

    I have since made a better version using a thermal printer and small speaker.

  12. Tom M. says:

    First project was an LED driving program that drives 9 LEDs (circle of 8 and 1 in the middle) in a number of patterns (rotating, up-down, left-right, etc), where changing patterns is done by a pushbutton. The whole thing was installed into a Trader Joe’s round chocolate tin (with round window) and worn as a pendant. Also built the RFID-triggered sound project from Make (Charlie Bear, I think, from a few issues back). Currently working on a version of the pendant where speed of rotation in the LED pattern is sound dependent.

  13. Andrew Roberts says:

    My first project to really sell me on the power of the arduino community was inspired by the Vortex Manipulator on Doctor Who, which has way too few buttons to seem practical. I hooked up a World War 2 bomber morse code key as text input, and used an LCD shield as the output device. In one evening’s work, I had a working one-button user interface and text display! Of course the morse key could be replaced by any sort of momentary action switch, like a microswitch.

    Thanks to the folks who wrote the morse decoding and LCD libraries, and made them available to the rest of us.

  14. Scott Hill says:

    A steampunk Ghostbuster “spirit detector.” The first version was built into a pleather-covered cigar box, with lights and two meters (one contained a servo to drive the needle, I blew out the meter while testing it). A hidden switch on the side would put it into “detecting a ghost” mode.

    The second version was built into an oak box, with new meters. I used a capsense library to make one of the brass case screws into a touch-switch.

  15. Alessandro says:

    A bronze bell chiming clock.

    This one connects to the PC. I also made one stand-alone, Posting it one of these days.

  16. Johan Larsby says:

    This was my first project

  17. makkan77 says:

    My first project was like many other first timers… drum roll… a LED mood light. It’s controlled by a pot on top of a pushbutton. Pushing down changes through modes such as off, color chooser, pulse color, color cycle, flames etc and turning the pot sets speed of pulse or chooses color.

  18. audiobody says:

    After completing the basics of blinking LED light, we quickly moved on to create a device with 7 servo / robotic arms controlled by tennis balls. By manipulating the balls it triggers the servos to play music on a computer keyboard. :-) We are about 75% done with the project and hope to have video very soon!

  19. ameyring says:

    My first one was to use the Ardweeny in the Make Robots contest in early 2010. Although I didn’t win, it was a great learning experience!

  20. Tim (@DataTechArt) says:

    WeatherBeacon was my first innovative Arduino project:

    It’s a glowing orb on top of my weather station showing current temperature, humidity, and precipitation. I created it to show the subtle changes in weather conditions, which are hard to feel. Mostly I wanted to figure out how Arduino and wireless (xbee) communication really work. And with the help of others and Tom Igoe’s Making Things Talk book and many weekends it worked.

  21. Jeff Faust says:

    My first Arduino project is a working semaphore signal for my N scale railroad. Without the Arduino, it would have been complicated. With it…practically plug-and-play!

  22. Jeff Murchison says:

    My first Arduino project, ever, was an Arduino-powered foosball scoreboard. I took one of those old NHL scoreboard lamps and converted it into a functional scoreboard. In the table itself I installed trip lasers for automatic scoring, and it communicates wirelessly with the scoreboard.

    More details and pics here:

  23. Mike says:

    I’m still researching and resourcing, but my first intended project is a nursery call sign for my church (the nursery workers punch in a number, it shows up on an led screen in the sanctuary and the parents of that child know their kid needs them). I think I may actually have enough knowledge to do it now, I just haven’t made the time for it again.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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